Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Tribes: An Economic Trade Center

Since time began, our territory stretched for over 13 million acres from east of the Missouri River to beyond present-day Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota. These lands were an epicenter of trade and economy, raising and trading a surplus of corn, beans, sunflowers, tobacco, pumpkins, and squash. This robust agricultural base and extensive trade system brought wealth and political power to the upper Missouri River peoples.

Still, despite numerous legal and treaty protections, our original land base has been carved down to just 1 million acres over the last two centuries. The remaining 1,500 square miles is now known as the Fort Berthold Reservation.


Our Ancestral Lands Taken and Destroyed

1948: Chairman George Gilette (left), witnessing the forced sale of over 150,000 acres of land for the Garrison Dam and Reservoir, displacing more than 900 tribal families.

“We will sign this contract with a heavy heart … With a few scratches of the pen, we will sell the best part of our reservation. Right now, the future doesn’t look too good for us.” - Chairman George Gilette


In 1953, the Garrison Dam flooded nearly a dozen tribal villages, destroying hundreds of homes and what was our thriving economy. We lost a quarter of our remaining land base, and 90 percent of our people were forced to relocate from their homes.


We have paid in land, we have paid in water, we have sometimes paid with our lives for the right to keep what is just a fragment of our ancestral territory.